Our Client Success Team works at the forefront of every client engagement, partnering with you to achieve optimal DEI and business outcomes by interweaving diversity, equity, and inclusion best practices with your operational strategy and unique business goals. We believe this alignment is key to sustainable success.
We also believe that knowing more about the people you will work alongside as part of your DEI engagement helps you connect on a deeper level to achieve bigger, more meaningful results.
At its core, DEI is intensely personal work. Get to know the people you’ll be working with as a client of The Diversity Movement through their own words and stories. Then, reach out to learn more about our three-phase approach to every engagement.
Vice President of Client Success Jamie Ousterout on Flexibility
“Because I had my own business, I can probably relate to some of our clients and understand some of the issues they've had. I do think having that varied experience from my past has helped. And I think that work ethic, that startup mindset – let's figure this out together – definitely helps as well.”
Senior Consultant and Innovation Strategist Susie Silver on Authenticity
“I do not think I would be productive in having these conversations with people in this space if I didn’t tell my story. Being open, transparent, and as authentic as you can be – those are the things that are building the most bridges.”
“Learning how to connect with people who you can’t even see is something that I developed over the years. In front of a teleprompter or a camera, you don't see your audience. But you know they’re there, and you learn that the camera is just a conduit to the people you’re really communicating with.”
“The murder of George Floyd happens, and I already had Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Breonna Taylor. You have all of these other incidents. And I am affected as a leader, as a person, as a Black man in our society. I said, ‘Today, I’m going to cry, but tomorrow I’m going to do something.’”
Jamie Ousterout, Vice President of Client Success at The Diversity Movement, is a careful planner, but in her career and in life, she always makes sure to leave room for unexpected moments of discovery.
An avid traveler, Jamie likes to know where she will sleep each night, but between breakfast and bedtime, she keeps her options open. For instance, on a pre-pandemic trip to Ireland, she and her husband planned to explore the Slieve League sea cliffs in Donegal – some of the highest cliffs in Europe – and a hike along the Pilgrim’s Path sounded like the perfect way to reach the top.
“Anything that sounds like that, you should never do,” she says. “We got up towards the top, and the weather was so bad that my husband said, ‘We need to turn around. I don't want to die on our vacation.’”
They wisely turned back and took their car to the top instead. The rain was still coming down in torrents, but the couple managed to take a few photos before looking for shelter.
“We ended up finding this really cool pub called The Rusty Mackerel,” Jamie says. “We each got a pint of Guinness and some broccoli cheddar soup. The server came out and said, ‘There’s nothing better in life!’ And it was just one of those moments. We realized, ‘There really is nothing better in life. This is amazing!’ So we ended up kind of happening upon it, but it was really, really cool.”
This is how Jamie works.
She sets up a structure – a framework for success – but always keeps flexibility as part of the plan. Whether you’re traveling the world or exploring diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategies with a client organization, moments of discovery can be magical and precious.
Jamie launched her operational strategy business, Stabilimenta, in one of those magic moments.
With degrees in English and history from Cornell University, Jamie worked for several companies in the publishing, marketing, and communications industry. In 2018, she started thinking about working for herself.
“I just saw this need for these organizations that are small – wanting to grow but not really sure how – to really help them put the structures in place and help with their mission, vision, and values – defining those,” Jamie says.
She spent months working out the details, which included lots of advice from her friends and business connections. In May 2018, during one of these exploratory meetings, Jamie unexpectedly landed her first client.
Her companions asked a few questions, including what Jamie could do for them. “I kind of walked them through what I would do, and they said, ‘That sounds great. Give us a proposal.’”
She remembers thinking at the time: “Wait. Did I…? Is this happening now?”
While landing that first client was a surprise, it wasn’t an accident. The plan was in place; it just needed that bit of serendipity to be complete.
At the same time as Jamie was nurturing her consulting company, Stabilimenta, she was also helping the Raleigh City Farm grow to reach its goals. Looking for more ways to be active in her community, Jamie volunteered to help the nonprofit with its marketing and communications. When she agreed to serve on the board in 2019, it was a pivotal time for the organization.
The farm’s fundraising plan was focused on in-person events, she says, and the board knew it needed to diversify its efforts. Plus, the farm itself needed more dedicated attention and day-to-day care.
“At the time, the property didn't look great. People were complaining,” Jamie says. The first pivot was to hire a new farm manager. “They came in and just completely revitalized it. And then a couple months later, of course, the pandemic hit.”
Luckily, the pivot was already turning. The farm started donating produce to other local nonprofits that were fighting food insecurity. Instead of big in-person fundraisers, the board organized four smaller take-home events. With a grant from Bank of America, the farm launched a pay-what-you-can farm stand in 2021. Today, the urban farm has several big-name partners like Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and Spoonflower.
“I'm really just super proud that we’ve been able to make the shift,” Jamie says.
“I didn't really want to do that, but my dad – I get a lot of advice from my dad – he says, ‘Never turn down an interview.’ So all right, I’ll follow my dad's rules; don't turn down an interview,” Jamie says. “I spoke with [co-founder] Don [Thompson], and after our 30-minute conversation, I thought, ‘I'm gonna join The Diversity Movement.’
“I really enjoyed working with the team. I really enjoyed the impact we were making.”
The experience she gained from building her own business has been an advantage in Jamie’s current role and not just because she learned how to work hard. At Stabilimenta and throughout her career, Jamie worked with clients in a variety of industries, from architecture to pharmaceuticals and healthcare.
“Because I had my own business, I can probably relate to some of our clients and understand some of the issues they've had,” she says. “I do think having that varied experience from my past has helped. And I think that work ethic, that startup mindset – let's figure this out together – definitely helps as well.”
Her talent for flexibility comes in handy when Jamie and her team are figuring out what works best for each client.
“We really do have our set methodology that we do try to explain to clients,” she says. “But then, everyone's a little bit different.”
For example, associations have a diverse set of stakeholders – board members, staff, and volunteers. These organizations need a different approach than a midsize company with a leadership team, a traditional corporate structure, and employees.
“I feel very lucky, because honestly, we have really great clients,” Jamie says. “They really are committed to DEI. They really do care about the work.”
The Diversity Movement and its clients believe that the right DEI strategy can inspire people, transform workplaces, and create a better world. Contact us todayto learn how Jamie and the rest of our team can craft a DEI solution for your business – one that leaves plenty of room for moments of discovery.
Living Our Values: Susie Silver on Authenticity
Susie Silver will tell you she’s an open book, but she hasn’t always been that way. Now in her early 40s, it took Susie years to find her voice — as an activist, an artist, and an educator.
As The Diversity Movement’s Senior Consultant and Innovation Strategist, Susie is all those things and more. Susie is an LGBTQ+ inclusion specialist, who uses her professional experience and her coming out story to help others. Every bit of her gregarious identity is filtered through her creative vision, her energy, and her love of people.
“I will never again apologize for who I am,” Susie says.
Originally from the Pittsburgh area, Susie moved to North Carolina in 2003 to take a job teaching high school art. The work was rewarding and her colleagues were exceptional, but there was little time for creating her own art.
“When I started teaching, what I didn't realize was happening for a long time is all of my creative energy, all of my play, all of the thoughts, energy, ideas, would go to the students. It probably made me a better teacher. However, internally, there was such a disconnect with practicing what I was teaching.”
This was more than a creative dry patch for Susie, who throughout her childhood and adolescence had never gone anywhere without her sketchbook. “In a way, I digressed from what was inherently me,” she says.
Her whole world shifted when Susie met “her person,” the woman who is now her wife. Susie describes that time, 14 years ago, as one of the happiest of her life. Yet, at the same time of this personal blossoming, she wasn’t being honest in the rest of her life.
“I felt as comfortable in my own skin as I ever had; at the same time I was hiding,” Susie says. “I was hiding at work, I was hiding in my community, I was hiding from my family. I didn't sleep; I didn't eat properly. I wasn't taking care of myself.”
Then she was outed.
Her sexual orientation was disclosed to others without her consent, and while everything was now in the open, it took time for Susie to regain her equilibrium and recover her ability to trust.
“I held on to that story for a really long time,” she says. But eventually, she realized she had to tell her story – not for herself, but to help others.
“I was in a school faculty meeting on suicide awareness, which we did every year. But this one particular year – 6 or 7 years ago – we had this slide on the suicide and self harm rate of LGBTQ+ youth,” Susie says.
The statistics were grim. Even today, LGBTQ+ youth have a 2-7 times greater risk of suicide than cisgender/heterosexual youth, according to Behavioral Health News. One bright spot is that a positive school experience can reduce the risks, according to the Journal of Public Health.
“I’ve got to do something to try to help these kids stay safe,” Susie thought at the time.
With her principal’s permission, she launched teacher training sessions at her high school. Then she expanded those workshops to the entire school district, one of the largest in the U.S. Along the way, Susie was invited to speak, lead training, and consult at businesses throughout the area. These corporate consulting engagements eventually turned into Susie’s business, With Pride Consulting. Then in February 2021, Susie joined the staff of the The Diversity Movement, to work on diversity, equity, and inclusion programming full-time.
“I always knew that this was my voice,” she says of her decision to shift into DEI work.
And while it wasn’t easy to start sharing her story, her powerful message has had an impact, often in ways that Susie could not have predicted. For instance, she tells how a former student was contemplating suicide in high school, but stopped because of Susie.
“I think I might have said, ‘Everybody is wonderful just the way they are,’ or ‘Everybody is welcome here,’ or I used some kind of inclusive language,” she says. “I don't remember. I remember the student, and they said that that made a difference.”
While Susie was brought to tears when she first found out about the student and her unconscious influence on their life, she doesn’t want the focus to be on her. It should be about living an authentic life, she says, and celebrating everyone’s beautiful differences. She is grateful that honesty and authenticity underpin her work at The Diversity Movement, especially her work with individual clients.
“I do not think I would be productive in having these conversations with people in this space if I didn’t tell my story,” Susie says. “Being open, transparent, and as authentic as you can be – those are the things that are building the most bridges.”
During her many conversations with people, Susie has seen many moments when an idea challenges an assumption and someone’s viewpoint changes, either then and there or later, on their own time and terms. Accepting new ideas takes vulnerability, open-mindedness, and honesty, she says. These are also the qualities that make strong leaders, who can be grounded and authentic as they work toward creating a better organization.
It’s important to keep in mind that authenticity is not a destination, Susie says. “It’s an ever-evolving journey that has challenges, and that is okay.”
Susie’s journey has always included her art, but as she began using her voice and telling her story, her work became more authentic and personal. She returned to paint and ink and began playing with line and color. The process was fun again; she was seeing where it went, rather than fixating on the end product. The resulting paintings have been some of the most unique and well-received of her career.
“People responded well to it, because it was authentically me. It was for me. And there were stories behind the colors, the inspiration. Storytelling is such a bridge-builder, and so, it did let my authentic self, that voice out,” says Susie, who shows and sells her paintings at www.susiesilverart.com.
“I feel a lot lighter, not hiding. Not hiding the artist, not hiding my personality, not hiding who I love and what I believe in and what I stand for.”
“I have always been a very curious person. I love to hear people’s stories. I would much rather listen to others than talk about myself,” says the former news anchor, Emmy-nominated journalist, and award-winning multimedia producer.
Melanie’s talents – a curious nature, a lifelong passion for teaching, and a love of storytelling – helped her succeed in journalism and have been indispensable as she trains clients to be effective and inclusive communicators. But those innate qualities haven’t been the only thing fueling her success. Early in her career, Melanie also learned to connect with audiences and to work hard, or as she calls it, to hustle.
Learning to hustle
Melanie’s first journalism job was as a receptionist/reporter at a small news bureau in Panama City, Florida, answering phones in the morning and reporting in the afternoon.
“Every day, I had to wait to use the camera gear until [my boss] Ron Jones was done filming the popular show ‘Fishing with Red,’ a live show about fishing, of course. I would generate my own stories, shoot my own stories, and then microwave the video to the main station in Dothan, Alabama,” she says.
“I was not the best receptionist, but my reporting skills got me promoted six months later to the main television station.”
Melanie learned how to tell a story effectively, to work quickly, and to stay calm despite stringent deadlines. But reporting and writing interesting stories were only the first steps. Melanie also had to figure out how to engage viewers. That meant learning how to animate her voice and expressions, speak concisely and to the point, and relax in front of the camera.
“Learning how to connect with people who you can’t even see is something that I developed over the years,” she says. “In front of a teleprompter or a camera, you don't see your audience. But you know they’re there, and you learn that the camera is just a conduit to the people you’re really communicating with.”
Saving the lion
While the job was tough at times, with long hours, and some of the stories over the years could be heartbreaking,theability to connect with audiences was one of the best aspects of her profession, Melanie says. One of her favorite stories happened early in her career when Melanie and her team were called to report on a lion in a parking lot in Mobile, Ala.
“The police were there, and they popped the hatch of a car. There was a full-size lion lying in the back. I remember the shock on everyone's face, because of how ill the lion was,” Melanie says. “She was very sick. Whoever owned her had her in a backyard, tied up to a tree, and she wasn’t well fed. The fact that we could be up close to a lion and not be in danger was indicative of how poorly fed she was and how bad off she was.”
The lion was taken to a local zoo, where she was slowly nursed back to health. Melanie covered the story for weeks, watching with her audience as the lion grew strong. Viewers sent encouragement and donations, enough to build the lion her own exhibit at the zoo.
“There was this outpouring of community support for her. It was so amazing and heartwarming to see this lion go from the back of a hatch, when she couldn’t lift her head, to her own exhibit,” she says, adding that eventually the lion was well enough to have her own cubs.
“What started as a really sad story of animal abuse, ended up being a story of triumph for an incredible animal, and a community that really supported her,” Melanie says.
“As a news journalist, not all the stories are happy, but the stories that really touch you are the ones where the community gets involved and shows you their humanity.”
Connecting in new ways
After twenty years in television news, putting up with the long hours and irregular schedules, Melanie wanted a change. She resigned as news anchor at WNCN-TV in Raleigh, N.C., so she could transition into marketing and use her journalism experience to tell clients’ stories. Most importantly, she wanted to spend more time with her children. While the marketing world was a little different, she says the storytelling was similar, and connecting with audiences was just as rewarding.
At the marketing agency Walk West, Melanie was the Director of Video Production and led corporate communications training and professional development for clients. In 2021, she began co-teaching a Business Communication course as a way to pass on her knowledge and to fulfill a lifelong ambition to be a teacher.
“I was really enjoying the professional development training more than anything, and started teaching at N.C. State’s business school with the focus on professional development skills, corporate communications, and I loved it,” Melanie says. “I absolutely love teaching.”
At the beginning of the class, students are typically afraid to volunteer to speak in front of the group. Melanie says they are uncomfortable; they don’t know how to stand or what to do with their hands. She teaches clients and students the skills they need to connect with audiences, whether they are in person or in front of a camera.
“Once they learn effective message development, and best practices with body language and vocal delivery – these really essential presentation methods that they can build on – then they can become a confident presenter,” she says. “They know how to then connect with their audience.”
Melanie helps her students tap into that inner confidence, so they can relax and be authentic, thoughtful speakers. She also provides lots of opportunities to practice speaking in front of a camera, even staging mock media interviews so clients can get comfortable answering tough questions.
“That lightbulb moment is when they are no longer afraid of the camera. They’re no longer afraid of the audience,” Melanie says. “I strive in every classroom and every training to have that moment at the end. To me that’s success.”
Lots of lightbulb moments
In 2021, Melanie completed her training to become a Certified Diversity Executive. Incorporating DEI principles into her N.C. State classes and professional development work was a great way to help her students and clients become more thoughtful speakers and leaders, she says.
Then, in January 2022, Melanie joined The Diversity Movement. Now a member of the Client Success team, she leads the professional development services group, a team of corporate communications experts who help clients become more inclusive, productive, and successful leaders.
“The mission is still the same, and that is, how do we live together in a positive way, and really embrace our authentic selves, our diverse selves?” Melanie says.
“I hope that the future lightbulb moments that I have are not only people gaining confidence in front of the camera, but the lightbulb moments of when people realize the value of DEI, in their own lives and in their businesses.”
Connecting with audiences is a power skill that begins with a lightbulb moment. To learn more about Melanie and the Professional Development Services at TDM, contact us today. We’ll help you learn to present your best self, whether on camera, when public speaking, or in day-to-day workplace communications.
Living our Values: Brentley Wright on Resilience
The pivot. The before and after. The two steps forward and one step back. The falling and the getting back up. We all have those moments in our lives, but it is what we do with them that defines us.
Brentley Wright has had more of these moments than most, and each has strengthened his faith and resilience. Take for example, the events of May 2020.
“The murder of George Floyd happens, and I already had Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Breonna Taylor. You have all of these other incidents. And I am affected as a leader, as a person, as a Black man in our society,” he says.
“I said, ‘Today, I’m going to cry, but tomorrow I’m going to do something.’”
That something was pursuing a Diversity and Inclusion Certificate from Cornell University, which he finished in October 2020. Suggested by Brentley’s uncle, a longtime human resources professional, the program reoriented his life and shifted his career plans.
“I found a love for the business imperative for DEI, something that could shape the workplace,” Brentley says, adding that he also saw the connection between DEI at work and social justice everywhere else.
Today, Brentley is a certified diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) business practitioner and a DEI Advisor with The Diversity Movement.
At The Diversity Movement, he is responsible for leading DEI Navigator, the company’s monthly membership service designed exclusively for small- to medium-sized businesses committed to DEI action and results. Brentley is the main point of contact for members, providing real-time advice and guidance. He is also the conduit for members to connect with trusted experts on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Brentley relishes his role as an intrapreneur, which he defines as someone with entrepreneurial skills who works within a company to innovate and grow the business.
“This role allows me to be a leader. This role allows me to influence people. This role allows me to be pastoral, which I am by nature,” he says.
Resilience, and learning to work hard
Brentley’s caring nature – his real desire to help others – is immediately apparent. He is also outgoing, warm, and unfailingly polite in a manner that epitomizes his Southern upbringing. But beneath that easygoing exterior, there is strength and grit.
“I've had to be resilient my whole entire life,” Brentley says. “I've just had a whirlwind of a life, and if I was not resilient, I don't know where I would be.”
His parents divorced when he was seven, and he and his three younger siblings were raised by his mother in Laurinburg, N.C., population 14,000. Brentley landed his first job at fourteen and describes his teen years as rebellious. He was running with the wrong crowd and admits that he barely graduated high school.
His failing grades triggered a hard conversation with his mother about what Brentley wanted to do with his life, and how he expected to accomplish those goals. His mother made it quite plain that all of Brentley’s ambitions depended on him graduating high school.
With those goals top of mind, Brentley worked hard to bring up his grades and earn his diploma. And since getting out of Laurinburg was at the top of his list, the day after graduation Brentley left for Raleigh, N.C., to attend St. Augustine’s University, one of the city’s oldest HBCUs. It was an opportunity to continue his education, and it gave him a chance to live independently.
“College for me was not really on my radar,” he says. “I didn't know what I was doing. I had no plan.”
He might not have had a plan, but Brentley soon settled into the routine, even becoming student body president in his first year at St. Augustine’s. Then, after only two years of study, he found out that he was going to be a father. While unexpected, the baby helped provide clarity and purpose to Brentley’s life.
“I’ve always been great at assessing a situation and finding out what needs to happen next,” he says. “I don’t have all the answers all the time, but I know I have this fearless, resilient bone.”
One of his first priorities was earning money to prepare for his child’s birth. While still a student, Brentley launched a car-detailing business with a friend, and he was able to set aside $11,000 by the time his baby was born in 2007.
Remembering that time in his life, Brentley repeats a mantra of encouragement for his younger self: “You’re not going to run from responsibility. You're going to be resilient in your responsibility, and you're going to make this happen. You're going to father well, and you're going to do the things that you did not get when you were growing up.”
Mentors, and honing the tools for success
Faced with the responsibilities of fatherhood, Brentley left St. Augustine’s and took a full-time sales job with SunCom Wireless, which soon became T-Mobile. That job was another unexpected blessing, one that connected Brentley with one of his first mentors, Christian Taylor, his supervisor at T-Mobile.
“He was the person who helped me on my journey to becoming a professional,” Brentley says. “He told me, ‘This is how you iron a shirt. This is how you press your pants. This is how you put your cologne on. This is how you smile. This is how you work a room.’”
The advice helped Brentley, a first-generation professional, feel more comfortable in a business setting and perform better on the job. Along with these details on corporate behavior and appearance, Christian also taught Brentley the value of feedback.
“He gave me information that changed my life,” Brentley says. “We were doing a deal one day with some business owners, and I missed about two or three steps in the process. We got the deal done, and I got some feedback. Christian says, ‘Brent, you are really good. You have natural talent. But even with natural talent, you won't go as far if you don't pay attention to detail.’”
While hard to hear at the time, Brentley came to understand that the feedback wasn’t a personal attack. It was a critique of the situation, a suggestion made because his boss genuinely wanted Brentley to improve.
Financial literacy and mentoring others
Along with diligence, Christian instilled in Brentley a capacity to be open-minded and learn from each job he has held. About seven years ago, a recruiter invited Brentley to join the Financial Services Industry. That was the beginning of Brentley Financial, a company he launched in 2015.
“I learned that this is how the industry works and how you are to manage your finances, manage them, and then invest them to grow them, multiply them,” Brentley says.
Learning about financial services and helping people manage their money was rewarding, he says. That period of his life also helped cement what Brentley calls his “good financial habits.” Among the lessons he took to heart was that a person can be a lot more resilient if they have a financial cushion.
“You can breathe,” he says. “You'll be able to see areas where you can see the need and say, ‘We have the resources to help with that need.’ That's what makes you effective. That's why money is so important. It's not about you. It's not about the actual dollar. It's what you can do with this amazing tool.”
Having learned the value of professional comportment and financial literacy, Brentley now aims to pass them on. Brentley serves on the board of Accelerating Men, Inc., a nonprofit, faith-based, community organization that aims to mentor boys ages 10-18 and give them the skills to survive and thrive as successful leaders. He describes the group’s mission as helping young men “find their identity.”
Brentley serves as the group’s adviser on matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and he is responsible for teaching financial literacy to participants and their parents.
“I always tell people that money drives the train,” he says. “If you like a girl, you can't take her out, you can't ride around town, you can't eat in a good restaurant, if you don't have money.”
Brentley enjoyed working in Financial Services and appreciated that he could be innovative and focused on his clients’ needs. However, the life of an entrepreneur wasn’t a good fit.
“My leadership leans more towards a number two, and how we can push the vision of the CEO and the company and align the employees,” he says. “I just get excited about that, and I don’t have to push the ball up a hill.”
Brentley took a position managing a retail store in 2018, and although he had always worked hard, he says it was an exhausting few years. His daily schedule would begin by getting his youngest child ready and driving them to school by 7:30 a.m.. Then he would drive nearly an hour from Durham to his job in Fuquay-Varina, be there until 6-6:30 p.m., drive home, and eat dinner. Then, because he was also in school, he’d study, write his papers, or connect with his mentees.
The after, and a new beginning
Next came that pivotal moment in 2020, when the world shifted and Brentley’s goals along with it. After he completed his Diversity and Inclusion certification, Brentley started applying for jobs that would enable him to do the DEI work that he knew would make society a better place for his children.
“It was two years of ‘no’s. I had applied, applied, applied, applied, applied, and I got told, ‘no.’ It was this year when I was told ‘yes,’” he says, of joining The Diversity Movement in April. “I'm so grateful. It's more than a role for me. It's an adventure, and it has allowed me to heal.”
A big part of that healing has been the gift of time, which he enjoys spending with his wife and two children.
“I am just floored right now at the amount of healing I have – mental healing, physical healing. I'm able to get back to working out. I'm able to have some time with my family,” Brentley says. “I'm just able to do the things that give me a quality of life while doing the most with my work.”